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First organized lobbying for geosynthetics

October 1st, 2006 / By: / Updates

GMA members meet with lobbyist partners, congressional reps in D.C.

For the first time in its short history, the Geosynthetic Materials Association (GMA) has a professional lobbying program. The impetus for the program is a strategic plan written by the GMA Executive Council in 2004 that identified government relations as a priority for the association.

In 2005, GMA developed an official request to identify a firm that could evaluate the government marketplace for geosynthetics. In early 2006, GMA engaged Whitmer & Worrall/Kemp Partners to compile a comprehensive review of government relations opportunities for GMA. In June of this year, GMA contracted with the same group to begin the implementation of a lobbying program.

Opportunities

The lobbying program immediately targeted the rebuilding of the U.S. Gulf coast as an opportunity for the use of geosynthetics in new construction. Leading the charge for GMA is former congressman and vice presidential candidate, Jack Kemp. When he addressed the GMA Executive Council last July, he pointed out his strong relationships with state governors and mayors who could initiate GMA relationships in the Gulf region and ultimately have geosynthetic materials used in the recovery efforts there and in building projects across the country. Kemp also offered an overview of those efforts and updated the EC members on the Katrina rebuilding and the expectation to lead a GMA delegation to meet with officials from Louisiana and Mississippi.

Meetings have been held with state officials from Louisiana and Mississippi as well as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to begin discussions about involving geosynthetics in rebuilding projects.

Water Resources Development Act

The Water Resources Development Act 2005 (WRDA) is a comprehensive congressional act that will fund water-related projects and studies. This broad legislation contains hundreds of projects that have the potential for geosynthetic products, applications, and services. The projects include: flood damage reduction, stream and riverbank protection, shoreline protection, dredging, and sediment removal. Harbor construction and restoration, flood control, beach restoration, and environmental protection sections of this legislation also could encompass the use of geosynthetics.

GMA and its Washington, D.C. lobbying team targeted WRDA as a vehicle to expand the marketplace for geosynthetics. The House and Senate passed separate versions of WRDA and will reconcile differences in conference committee later this year. GMA is attempting to have favorable language inserted in the compromise bill that would direct federal agencies to collaborate with the leading geosynthetic companies to aggressively pursue geosynthetic technologies and applications.

Meetings and presentations in D.C.

Kemp, a former congressman and Secretary of HUD, briefly addressed GMA Executive Council chair Ernie English and GMA managing director Andrew Aho last July, and then he welcomed the GMA Executive Council to the Kemp Partners/Whitmer-Worrall offices in Washington, D.C.

Kemp expressed to the Executive Council (EC) members that their coming to D.C. to meet with their congressional representatives is a necessary step for them to lay the groundwork for their association to educate Capitol Hill, and ultimately the appropriate federal agencies, on the benefits of using geosynthetic materials. Kemp championed the theme of GMA having a “great story” and that GMA and his lobbying team could work hand in hand to tell that story to the right people.

He also went on to point out his strong relationships with state governors and mayors who could initiate GMA relationships in the Gulf region and ultimately have geosynthetic materials used in the recovery efforts there, and in building projects across the country. Kemp also offered a general overview of the relationship and updated the EC members on the Katrina rebuilding in the Gulf coast and the expectation to lead a delegation to meet with officials from Louisiana and Mississippi.

Overall, Kemp stressed the importance of building high-level relationships and emphasized his ability, along with Kemp Partners and Whitmer & Worrall, to accomplish that goal.

Army Corps

Steve Stockton, Deputy Director-Civil Engineering, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also addressed EC meeting. He gave a briefing on the process to provide information and influence on design decisions in the rebuilding of the levees around New Orleans.

He also spoke about a technology transfer defiance that needs to be breached at the Corps. Stockton said he would provide opportunities for GMA to address the geotechnical engineers at the Corps. (See the related article in the box at the top of the page for more information on Stockton’s presentation.)

Promoting geosynthetics

Following Stockton’s comments, Martin Whitmer and Tom Worrall briefed the EC on lobbying activities and plans going forward. A portion of the discussion included GMA language that is intended for insertion into the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) that will go to conference committee.

Other topics included initiatives to seek funding of GMA projects through the congressional appropriations process. GMA is targeting several areas that will benefit many GMA members, including government funding for transportation, water resources, defense, and the environment.

GMA later hosted a reception at the Metropolitan Club for congressional and administration staffers.

Congressional meetings

GMA Executive Council chair, Ernie English, and Martin Whitmer met with Rep. John Duncan (R-Tenn.) to discuss the GMA language for the WRDA bill. Rep. Duncan will chair the conference committee on the bill.

Additional congressional meetings were held while EC members were in Washington. The sessions included one or two GMA members along with Martin Whitmer or Tom Worrall.

All told, GMA members met with: Krister Holladay, chief of staff for Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Rep. Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.), Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), Rep. Charlie Norwood (R-Ga.), Sen. Mark Dayton (D-Minn.), and Bill Sullivan, projects director for Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.)

The GMA lobbying program is off to an exceptionally strong start. It will take a sustained effort to achieve the goals of expanding the marketplace for GMA members and for all of the geosynthetic industry.

Andrew Aho is the managing director of the Geosynthetic Materials Association (GMA). Rudy Barry of Whitmer & Worrall and Ron Bygness, editor of Geosynthetics, also contributed to this article.

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